Christina Murphy

It's What's Inside That Counts

Christina Murphy is reluctant to talk about the time she modeled for Coppertone. A getting-to-know you conversation with her will cover a variety of topics-how she grew up in a military family and has lived all over the country, how she majored in zoology at the University of Florida, and how she got her start in the working world as a checker for Publix-but she won't say anything about modeling.

It's only with a little prodding ("So, I heard you are a former Coppertone model?") that Christina will laugh guiltily as though she's been busted and say, "I knew that would have to come up sooner or later." Years after her 15 minutes of fame have expired, she's still haunted by this accidental legacy.

"To this day, I think it was a fluke," said Christina, who is probably just being modest about how good she looked in a swimsuit.

The story went like this: Christina was about 20 years old when she and her sister were flipping through an issue of Cosmopolitan and came across an ad for a Coppertone model search contest. Back then, they lived in Daytona Beach, and Christina was in a bikini all the time. Her sister convinced her to enter, and she sent in some photos taken by her boyfriend with a regular amateur camera. To her surprise, she made the finals. So she sent in some more photos, and to her even greater surprise, she made the top three.

"I couldn't believe it," Christina recalls. "It was a nationwide contest. They flew us to St. Thomas for a photo shoot, and I was excited and nervous all at the same time."

Coppertone took professional photos of Christina, and although she didn't win first place, she knew her picture would be running in Cosmo in a few months time. Having always been rather shy, Christina neglected to tell anyone about the contest except her closest friends and family.

Meanwhile, she went off to school in Gainesville, and the Coppertone thing was basically old news for her. Until one day, while checking groceries at Publix, the bagboy pointed to the current issue of Cosmo on the rack and said, "So, do you read this magazine?" The cat was out of the bag, and her 15 minutes had begun.

The sequel to the story was that some friends who saw the picture convinced her to go out for the University of Florida's calendar, and she made the cut on that as well. But still, she refused to think of herself as a model.

"I look back at it now and think, 'That was a really cool experience,'" she says. "But it never got me anywhere; I never depended on it. If that's all you have to hang on to, it's going to be a hard road through life, because we're all getting another wrinkle; we're all getting another sunspot. But as long as that doesn't define you, it's tolerable."

Now Christina is happily married (she met him when they both worked at Publix) and works at Palmetto Bluff for East West Partners Club Management (using human resource training she got at Publix). She credits God with everything she ever had, and her view on beauty is decidedly down-to-earth.

"There's a Bible verse that I think captures beauty," she said. "It says, 'Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.'"

Up Close

Born: Marietta, GA

Came here: in 2003

Family includes: husband, Kevin; stepson Connor, age 13; and boxer, Buster

Hobbies: golf, biking, travel, reading and fishing-which is "better than shopping"

Favorite thing about the Lowcountry: the food

Favorite childhood memory: camping on the beach with her grandparents

Guilty pleasures: chocolate and French fries

Inner beauty vs. outer beauty: "If I could wish one thing for teen girls and young women, it would be that they could realize now, at a young age, what they will probably figure out by their 30s: that their true beauty really does come from inside."